The previous HTC Vive headset now costs $500. It’s still a hefty price to escape from reality, and it doesn’t include the cost of a fairly beefy game computer or laptop that you’ll need to power the Vive Pro. This is why VR is off to a relatively slow start, despite some fantastic public relations the industry is getting out of the launch of Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One film.
I’ve tried out the Vive Pro and it looks like something that can get me to spend more time in VR. It has a noticeably better display, integrated headphones, a built-in amplifier, and noise cancellation. Since the Vive Pro works with the earlier tracking tech, I was able to use it with my existing hand controllers and base stations.
Not that I was happy about installing it. I had to upgrade the firmware on my controllers and my base stations. This was a cumbersome process, requiring me to pull down the base stations from their mounts, plug them into my computer, and then manually upgrade them. The controllers also took a while to upgrade, as the system had trouble recognizing them. It took me more than an hour, but I managed the updating process.
The headset itself is heavy, but comfortable. It fit nicely over my glasses, and didn’t smash my glasses into my face. The earphones can be folded down to fit your ears, and you can adjust the headset strap to fit your head better. So I was happy with how that worked. That comfort factor makes a big difference in how long you are willing to have the thing on your head.
Logging into my Viveport account was a bit of a hassle, as I had forgotten the password and logging in via Steam or Facebook didn’t really work.
I did OK getting to the Vive Home environment, which was a very peaceful and pleasant-looking home. I walked outside and saw a bunch of butterflies flying around. The ambient sound of the outdoors filled my ears. A blue butterfly came to me and landed on my controller. That made me smile.
I managed to get into SteamVR fine and I picked up a couple of new games. I loaded both The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Fallout 4, both from Bethesda. I played those games on the consoles, and I tried out Skyrim in VR. The first time I played Skyrim, the environment looked pretty lame. The movement made me sick, and I felt like everything was either fuzzy or sitting behind a screen door. It wasn’t that much fun at all.
But when I put on the new Vive Pro and loaded Skyrim, it felt much different. The imagery looked better, including the mist in the air. The human characters didn’t look so blocky, and I could forget about where I was for a second or so and feel like I was really in a wagon headed down to the fortress where I was going to be beheaded. I switched over to movement by teleportation (given the choice of moving smoothly or by teleporting, I chose teleporting to save my stomach). It worked fine, and I felt I could stay in the world without feeling claustrophobic.
Then I switched over to Fallout 4 and played through the beginning. With this game, I noticed the area of focus was smaller. If I looked straight ahead, everything was in focus. If I looked a little to the side, it became blurry. The 3D art was good, but it wasn’t as sharp as I wanted it to be. So it seems like the attention to detail really matters as you go from game to game in VR.
The images definitely looked better than I’ve seen with older VR headsets. The Vive Pro comes with dual organic light-emitting diode (OLED) displays. They produce a crisp image of 2880 by 1600 pixels resolution. That is 78 percent better than the resolution on the original Vive, and I could see the difference. It makes you feel like you are immersed in an environment.
HTC said that all Vive Pro head-mounted displays purchased by June 3 will come with a free six-month trial to Viveport Subscription, where consumers can choose up to five titles per month from more than 400 available offerings. I haven’t taken the Ready Player One apps for a spin yet, but I’m looking forward to doing that since I liked the film.
Sure, the Vive Pro is still too expensive. But it takes VR forward in a way that I wasn’t expecting. It’s like pressing the reset button on VR. It makes me feel like trying out some new VR experiences again, and it’s been a long time since I felt that way.